Home' Community Care Review : CCR Jan-Feb 2015 Contents W hen Richelle Street was
undertaking a Bachelor of
Exercise and Sports Science
majoring in Clinical Exercise Physiology at
the University of Queensland, she dreamed
of working in elite sport with athletes. Not
with Brisbane's elders.
However, it turns out that improving
someone's ability to walk to the shops,
open the garage door, put their own shoes
on, or get off the toilet is more satisfying
than shaving a second off a young athlete's
running time, says Street.
The now 25-year-old is an accredited
exercise physiologist working in community
aged care and support with Blue Care Allied
Health Services at Azure Blue Carina and
Brisbane Eastside Allied Health.
Exercise physiology in aged care focuses
on independence, falls prevention and
quality of life, says Street, who has been
working in the sector for three years.
"The goals you make are so much
more meaningful because we take [our
indepedence] for granted when we are
younger but when we get older, your
balance and your strength declines unless
you have a proactive approach to exercise."
Although only early in her career,
Street was awarded the 2014 Australian
Exercise Physiologist of the Year from
Exercise Sports Science Australia (ESSA),
the peak professional body for tertiary-
trained exercise and sports science
Health and fitness though, has always
been central to her life. The former soccer
premier league player says she "lives for
exercise" and enjoys educating this older
generation, most of whom didn't grow up
with an exercise background.
"I love my sport and the fact that I can
share my passion and how important it is
in my life with other people. I help them
understand the importance of exercise
and that they only have one body and one
chance to be the best."
Street is based in a day therapy centre
where she and a multidisciplinary team of
physiotherapists, occupational therapists,
speech pathologists and podiatrists provide
person-centred holistic care.
She sees about 90 clients a week. In
a typical day Street runs two or three
group programs plus sees individuals for
assessment and one-on-one sessions.
Street is involved in several ongoing and
short-term eight-week multidisciplinary
education and exercises programs, some
of which she has created and implemented
with fellow staff.
They include a healthy brain initiative
for people with Mild Cognitive Impairment,
Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL), a
program to help clients manage their
weight, type 2 diabetes or heart disease,
and a pulmonary rehabilitation course for
those with COPD.
Physical outcomes and personal goals
are monitored regularly with positive and
rewarding results, Street says.
"I emphasise to people that it is not
always about getting better. It is about
maintenance and slowing down the effects
of ageing. More than 90 per cent of clients
improve within the first three months
upon admission and then plateau, which is
fantastic because they are not declining and
are holding sarcopenia (age related loss of
muscle mass) at bay."
Job satisfaction is high, says Street. "In
aged care you might be their one outing for
the week so they are never late. They are
there early with a smile and they tell their
families about you."
However, getting people to exercise
outside of program times can be a
challenge and there are a range of issues
specific to an older cohort with co-
morbidities, such as arthritis, knee pain,
shoulder pain, cognitive impairment, and
diabetes, she says.
"If you look at the medical history it is
very complex, but you have to prioritise
what you're going to address and not
overthink it or try to address it all. You
need to know what you do as a therapist
and know what your scope of practice is
and work within that."
An attractive element of their services
is that the centre provides a safe and
non-judgmental environment for seniors
to exercise among peers, unlike a normal
gym, says Street.
However, she says a barrier can be a lack
of awareness among GPs in realising the
effectiveness of exercise as an intervention
as opposed to medication with unwanted
In doing her part to educate fellow
health professionals, Street presented a
webinar in December for ESSA on exercise
assessment and prescription in community
and residential aged care.
In addition to making more exercise
physiologists aware of how to best treat
seniors, Street says she wants to see more
awareness among seniors.
"Instead of an older person saying 'I
need to see a doctor or chiropractor,' I
would like to hear them say 'I need an
exercise physiologist.'" n
Selling a love of sport
Getting more seniors to recognise the life-changing benefits of exercise is top of
the list for aged care exercise physiologist Richelle Street tells NATASHA EGAN.
aaa community care review | 49
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